Should voters weigh in on minimum wage?

  • Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan

    Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan

Updated 5/16/2014 5:30 PM

State Government Writer


SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Friday won initial approval to ask voters in November whether the state minimum wage should rise to $10 per hour.

The powerful Chicago Democrat's ballot question would be only advisory and would not change the law if approved.

But it could give Democrats another tool to try to lure their supporters to the voting booth in November, maybe giving Gov. Pat Quinn and candidates statewide a boost.

The question would ask about raising the minimum wage by $1.75 per hour for people over age 18.

"Employers would rather not do that," Madigan said. "I'm not here for employees. I'm here for workers."

Democrats' push to raise the minimum has stalled both on the state and federal levels. In Congress, a proposal has been blocked in the U.S. Senate.

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Madigan's plan could mark its end in Illinois until at least after the November election.

Republicans and business groups have criticized the idea as a job killer in a state that already has an unemployment rate above the national average.

"Would you be willing to put other matters of the marketplace on a referendum?" said state Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Wheaton Republican.

An Illinois House committee Friday agreed to move the plan forward by a 12-7 vote.

The results of a referendum if it succeeded could give political cover to lawmakers nervous about voting for a controversial wage hike before the November election.

But Democratic leaders are likely to emphasize it before the election, particularly because the issue caused controversy for Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner before the March primary.

Rauner opposed raising the minimum wage unless it's part of a package of business reforms, but his primary opponents criticized him for previous comments saying it should be lowered.

Rauner has his own ballot question he's backing -- a constitutional amendment to slap term limits onto lawmakers -- that could likewise drive his supporters to the polls.

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